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Ask Slashdot: Finding a Trustworthy VPN Service? 193

Posted by timothy
from the mowing-the-astroturf dept.
New submitter Cheeze ball writes "I've recently moved to Europe and I'd like to setup a VPN so I can get Hulu, Netflix, and a few other services. I've found plenty of sites offering cheap VPN services, but they all seem just a tad too shady. Searching for any reviews on them only brings up pages of positive reviews on sites whose only content is said review. Does anyone have any suggestions on reliable reasonably safe VPN?"
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Ask Slashdot: Finding a Trustworthy VPN Service?

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  • Run your own (Score:5, Informative)

    by dskoll (99328) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:03AM (#39629615)

    Get a cheap colocated server in the US and then run OpenVPN or whatever flavor of VPN you prefer.

    • Re:Run your own (Score:5, Informative)

      by QuantumRiff (120817) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:06AM (#39629639)

      You can get a vm at rackspace for about $11 a month: http://www.rackspace.com/cloud/cloud_hosting_products/servers/pricing/ [rackspace.com]

      Or of course, there is always the ever popular Amazon..

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yep. I'd get a free tier amazon ec2 machine and set up openvpn there. 15GB traffic is free and since you pay both in and out, it's 7.5GB/month vpn traffic. Good for a few movies, but after than you'll pay regular amazon traffic rates.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        But beware that $11/month doesn't include bandwidth charges. Streaming video might add substantially to that bill.

        Uhhh, if you are in the UK I might consider a trade....

      • Re:Run your own (Score:5, Informative)

        by Cthefuture (665326) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @10:19AM (#39630579)

        That's too much. Check out lowendbox [lowendbox.com] and find something you like.

        Since you don't need disk space, much RAM or CPU then you should be able to find something that will work for less than $20 a year. They usually come with a fair amount of bandwidth.

    • Re:Run your own (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hodet (620484) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:08AM (#39629669)
      I just run a cheap VPS and tunnel through SSH. its like $10 a month. You can get VPS in any country you need to originate from.
    • by 1s44c (552956)

      Get a cheap colocated server in the US and then run OpenVPN or whatever flavor of VPN you prefer.

      That's exactly what I was going to say with the exception that I would recommend a cheap virtual server not a colocated or dedicated machine.

      • by wisty (1335733)

        Most of the advantages of VPNs (fast disk IO, admin rights) are kind of irrelevant for this. Of course, you'll hammer their bandwidth, so they might block you for that.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Get a cheap colocated server in the US and then run OpenVPN or whatever flavor of VPN you prefer.

      A quality USA (American) VPN service permits Internet users to securely connect to a remote server based in the USA and access their favorite USA only streaming and other websites.
      I am using Pure VPN and enjoy my favorite USA Internet TV Channels like Netflix, Hulu, Roku Box, Pandora, ABC, CBS, NBC etc. from anywhere in the world. Currently its Price is $9.99/month, gives 14 servers in different countries as well as 24/hr customer support.
      There are many others VPN Providers offers quality and dedicated USA [bestvpnservice.com]

    • Re:Run your own (Score:5, Informative)

      by houstonbofh (602064) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @10:46AM (#39630941)
      Why when there are so many services? And to answer the OPs question, look at the review here. http://torrentfreak.com/which-vpn-providers-really-take-anonymity-seriously-111007/ [torrentfreak.com]
    • cheap

      If you have friends or family living in the US willing to assist, perhaps you could one up at their house and run your VPN for free? I've been wondering how well a ordinary consumer-level router (preferably one of the higher-end consumer routers) running TomatoVPN or similar firmware would work for this purpose.

      Of course, it goes without saying that you need to be considerate of their bandwidth (residential service upload bandwidth is usually quite limited), and their provider's TOS and such.

    • https://try.cloud.ubuntu.com/ [ubuntu.com] Try Ubuntu for 1 hour for free on Amazon's EC2 Cloud
      • by dhart (1261) *
        ssh -D 8080 -Nf ubuntu@50.12.345.67 (replace with valid IP from your Ubuntu Cloud Guest) Oh, and don't forget to add an SSH tunnel and configure your web browser to use a SOCKS proxy to localhost.
  • Get a UK based VPS service and terminate your VPN there.
  • Is this thing legal? I can imagine the local MPAA-lookalike not being happy that someone gets their streaming service from abroad.
    And, if it's legal... as an European, how can I sign up for that?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Questionable but... here's a reverse case of it, which won in (a US, I think) court. [mayonews.ie]

    • Re:Is it legal? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:22AM (#39629869) Homepage

      There's practically zero chance of them finding out. They would need to somehow know that the IP address of the VPN server is illegitimate (that's pretty unlikely already), and then convince that VPN service to hand over your personally identifiable information.

      And if they do catch you, what crime do they have you for? Violation of the terms of service?

      • So you need a VPN that can not do that. Look here... http://torrentfreak.com/which-vpn-providers-really-take-anonymity-seriously-111007/ [torrentfreak.com]
        • If the OP is only using Hulu and Netflix, it doesn't matter. They're not going to subpoena the service's logs just on the chance that you might not be in the US.

          TorrentFreak's article is more about BitTorrent piracy. In that case, any US-based service ultimately has to comply with a lawful court order, so they're vulnerable even if they say they don't keep logs.

          • First, always go with more security than you need, not exactly what you need. That way when you find out your estimation was off, you have some leeway.

            Next, a court order can not make logs that do not exist magically appear... They are counting on the fact that the *IAAs are notoriously slow and they order will come long after any useful information is gone.
            • Next, a court order can not make logs that do not exist magically appear...

              If the court order says "you will held liable if you don't keep logs" then yes, they can. And it's not just logs. Any information the service has about you is potentially discoverable. It's all a matter of how much you've pissed off whoever it is that's coming after you. If you're a pedophile terrorist drug lord, no company is going to be withstand the pressure.

    • AIUI using a VPN, proxy or similar service to access the internet is not in itself illegal. However if you use it to access sites that are supposed to be geographically restricted then you are likely to be breaking the terms of service of those sites. This then raises the quesiton of whether those terms of service form a legally enforceable contract.

      For pay services you are also likely to need a US payment method.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Legal? Well, if you're concerned about that - or anonymity - you should probably be looking a VPNs which accept Bitcoin in payment. *Those* are the providers that actually care about protecting their clients. Here's a list:

        https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Trade#Connectivity

        Bitcoin does have its uses...

      • Re:Is it legal? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by fearofcarpet (654438) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @10:13AM (#39630505)

        What really irks me about geographical restrictions is their totalitarian approach. I keep a permanent address in the US along with a few bank accounts and whatnot. But if I subscribe to a US-based service with my American address and bank account, I'm only allowed to use it while I'm physically within the US. I understand the reasoning--that stuff airs abroad at different times and with different distribution/carrier agreements--but as far as Hulu or Netflix is concerned, I live in the US and just travel 99% of the time... I mean, I still have to file US taxes (because taxes are based on citizenship and residence, so I get to file taxes in two countries) but PayPal/Hulu/Netflix/etc. throw a temper tantrum unless I log in through a US-based VPN... Anyway, it seems unlikely that a citizen living abroad who pays for a streaming service in their own country would be extradited for violating the TOS; more likely to happen to someone re-selling access or broadcasting it in a pub or something.

  • WiTopia, TunnelBear (Score:5, Informative)

    by jaffray (6665) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:09AM (#39629711)

    I've been using WiTopia a little over a year and had no problems with it.

    BoingBoing recently posted a link to TunnelBear, which has several positive reputable reviews.

    • by Blahah (1444607)

      I also use Witopia from the UK. It has about 30 different servers you can connect to in different cities around the world - I use it all day to listen to Pandora and occasionally watch Hulu. Also good for watching the BBC from abroad and watching Japanese channels from the UK.

      Excellent service all-round - high speeds and a choice of four VPN protocols.

    • Witopia good.
      Many servers around world.
      Cheap.
      Openvpn.
      Witopia good.

  • You can use basic VPS service (I use vps.net myself for my site hosting and works fine), set up a Linux distro you like and use Putty on your machine to tunnel over. And there you go: Secure VPN.
  • Astrill (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:11AM (#39629725)

    I live in China and use Astrill (www.astrill.com). It's cheap and stable. I run Netflix, stream from NBC, and occasionally Skype with it. Streaming video like Netflix is smooth, but the quality isn't super high. So far my only real complaint is that they have a client software that sits on your desktop. Good luck!

  • Unblock Us (Score:5, Interesting)

    by titten (792394) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:13AM (#39629751)

    I've been using http://unblock-us.com/ [unblock-us.com] for a few months (not affiliated in any way), and I like their approach. You change the DNS servers in your router, and it directs the traffic for you. That way, you can use Netflix et.al from devices that don't support VPN clients (like your smart TV/XBOX/AppleTV etc).

    • by scyph (153674)

      Seconded.

      As it's DNS based routing (requests for US-centric services get proxied via their US servers), not *all* your traffic goes via the VPN, so if you happen to have 100M cable to your house, you're not throttled by the limitations of routing everything via the VPN's bandwidth. And, as titten says, it enables it across all devices on your network (assuming you configure your router to use their DNS servers), not just the VPN initator; it 'just works'.

    • Re:Unblock Us (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fearofcarpet (654438) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @10:01AM (#39630369)

      A friendly warning from experience: I have lived in Europe for about as long as Hulu has existed and have found them to be incredibly aggressive at blocking free and pay-for proxies/VPNs. I tried all sorts different services and eventually each was blocked by Hulu, usually within 3-6 months. None of the others, mind you--Netflix, and and all the networks and studios continue to work. (And most use some sort of region-checking URL as a gateway, meaning you can direct just that one connection through the proxy, and then stream at full-speed.) I certainly hope unblock-us continues to evade Hulu (and I like the DNS approach), but if you use Hulu a lot, I would start looking for Plan B now, just to be safe.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Actually, The Pirate Bay has its own VPN service, which costs 5 eur a month. Though I don't, personally, use it (yet), I think that if I was to trust someone for VPN service, it sure as hell would be TPB. It's called IPredator (.se)

  • Why! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Why go through all that trouble just to watch crappy, advertising-riddled American TV? You're in Europe! I don't understand why anyone would *want* to watch US TV unless they had no other choice (meaning, they live in the US).

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by couchslug (175151)

      I don't watch US TV and I DO live in the US.

      Go enjoy Europe.

    • Re:Why! (Score:5, Funny)

      by jd2112 (1535857) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:40AM (#39630073)

      Why go through all that trouble just to watch crappy, advertising-riddled American TV? You're in Europe! I don't understand why anyone would *want* to watch US TV unless they had no other choice (meaning, they live in the US).

      Just watch BBC and see what will be on US TV in a few years.

  • ...and on top of that, there's also Lovefilm from amazon. Which country are you based on?

  • by jjp9999 (2180664) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:18AM (#39629805) Homepage
    Well, keep in mind just about any of them would give your data over if the authorities came knocking, but I know HotSpot Shield doesn't store user IP info (just don't use their free service - puts a big ad on every page you visit). So in other words, even if the authorities came to their door and offered them a billion dollars for your IP, they wouldn't be able to give it because they don't have it. But they have said they would start storing IPs if a law were passed saying they had to.
  • by Shoten (260439) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:23AM (#39629877)

    Okay, for one thing, I'm trying to figure out why you're worried about "safe". Your intent is to watch Netflix and Hulu with the VPN service? What are you worried about? Yes, I know...both take credit cards...but they do so over SSL.

    Your biggest problem will be throughput, and potentially latency. A VPN does not help with network performance, and neither does adding more hops to the route that the traffic will have to follow...especially when the server with be US-based and you'll be on the other side of the pond in Europe. So whatever service you do look at, make sure that they will be able to keep the data flowing at the bandwidth rates you need, and without causing problems from latency. And remember...latency and bandwidth are kind of related, but not the same thing. You can have high latency on a huge pipe, and low latency on a skinny one.

    • by TheLink (130905)
      Sometimes a VPN or proxy can help with network performance:
      a) The ISP is throttling certain traffic, and the VPN masks it.
      b) The normal route path could be by what is cheapest or most convenient for the ISPs involved not what is fastest for your traffic. A VPN could force the use of a better path.
    • by acoustix (123925)

      This has nothing to do with security and everything to do with him wanting to watch US programming in Europe, which is not allowed by Netflix and Hulu. This is why he needs to tunnel through a US-based IP address.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      Latency is a problem when you're waiting for keystrokes or weapons fire to be transmitted 'twixt server and client, but it is a total non-issue while watching streaming video with a buffer measured in minutes.

  • I've been using BlackVPN.com [blackvpn.com] for 2 years and it's €5.00 a month or €13.00 for 3 months for a single server (i.e. tied to a specific geographic location) but they offer several different packages ingluding "global" for €9.50 a month.

    Just a word to the wise: they don't like P2P traffic on the US server -- actually I think it's disabled altogether, as I couldn't even update WoW through that. ;-)

    RT.

  • I followed the route of cheap VPS/Amazon/Rackspace Cloud and I found out the hard way that my android ICS tablet did not work with L2TP/IPSEC PSK vpns. You didn't mention if you were using Linux, Android, IOS or Win 7. PPTP/GRE VPNs worked great however, as did port forwarding SSH. You could also use a squid proxy on those setups, but that just makes it more complicated.
  • by Sepodati (746220) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @09:26AM (#39629907) Homepage

    I've been using StrongVPN (OpenVPN) on a Buffalo G300NH loaded with DD-WRT and haven't had any issues. Works great from Belgium for Netflix, Pandora and web browsing. I chose the router solution so that the Roku, iPhone, and Wii can always be on the VPN and the laptops/desktops can be switched back and forth. I have another wireless router that provides local Internet.

    Streaming works great here, too. The kids are always watching something on Netflix. I'll sit outside by the fire with a cigar for a couple of hours and Pandora streams the entire time. Depends on your location in Europe and ISP, of course...

    -John

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I've been using StrongVPN for about a year and have had only one outage. My DSL goes down more than StrongVPN (reliablehosting.com is the provider). The service is cheap and the customer service is really great. I run it through my Asus router so I always have an American wi-fi network in my house. I have no hesitation in recommending StrongVPN.

  • I have used Private tunnel [privatetunnel.com] to connect to Hulu and similar services. It is offered by OpenVPN Technologies, the company behind OpenVPN, is quite fast compared to other offerings and the pricing [privatetunnel.com] is based on data usage as opposed to monthly plans, so it works out cheaper if you just want to use it occasionally to watch a few shows.
  • If the primary purpose of the VPN is just location spoofing who cares if its safe? Go with the cheapest option, don't give them a direct credit card payment (ie PayPal, a temporary card number, or a one time card) and use the one that works. If you need to do something 'secure' over that VPN double down and use SSL.

    The evil hackers in Slobenia aren't interested in your Netflix queue.

    • by NevarMore (248971)

      Furthermore, if its location spoofing for US-services the VPN has to terminate in the US. We have laws and a mostly functional society over here. Thats a huge protection.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Not OP, but it seems rather obvious that he's concerned about his prospective VPN/VPS "neighbors"..

      People do use these services for various shady activities, and if a guy is using e.g. a legit Netflix account /w his real name and such, he'd probably prefer not to have the hardware seized and examined by the cops (thus becoming a suspect / accessory) because someone else on the service was using it for illegal purposes.

  • I've been using purevpn for a couple of years, mostly to the UK although they also have servers in the US. They're cheap and reasonably reliable. You could just buy a one-month trial subscription ($6) and see how they work out for you.
  • I use http://www.vpnmakers.com/ [vpnmakers.com] - cheap, reliable, works great for streaming content, plenty of speed. Month-to-month billing as well, pay only when you need it ($4.85 per month).
  • I'd just use a virtual private server in the US and OpenVPN. The server i use is from datarealm.com and is $5 US a month for 100GB of traffic. If you think you need more than that, larger packages that are also fairly cheap. Seems to be really nice support whenever i have needed it.
  • by Bert64 (520050)

    You want to pay money, so you can use services that the providers of which deem you unworthy to have, just because you currently reside in europe...

    Why would you want to continue supporting companies that discriminate against you like that?

  • I use Private Internet Access. They are the sponsors of Freenode.net. https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/ [privateint...access.com]
  • I use AlwaysVPN and I would recommend it. They charge by GB rather than by month. If you're an occasional user that works out cheaper than most, as the bandwidth you buy from AlwaysVPN never expires.

  • I use BTGuard; I might be a noob because I haven't done much research on the company but I always get about 1MB ps dl from their netherland's server (i live in PA, USA).. .they also have servers in the US, France, and Germany I think??

    it's 9.95 a month, and it does allow you to just pay once if you'd like so you don't get stuck with bothering about ending the subscription come end of the month.

  • I've had reasonably good experiences with vpntunnel.se so far using BBC iPlayer from Germany and torrent downloads (there's a plague of speculative invoicing currently in Germany so if you download from TPB et al you need a VPN). It's 5 Euro/month or less if you sign up for longer, you can pay by paypal and a few other methods.

    They have had some reliability issues in the past though so I'd only sign up for a month and try it.

  • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @10:36AM (#39630789) Homepage Journal

    The reason you can't use Netflix and Hulu is that the copyright holders have insisted that your money is no good. If they knew some of the money they were receiving was coming from you, they would be furious and look for any way possible to force you to take it back. They're already pissed off enough that Americans are still paying them, and they're constantly working on ways to make us stop.

    Bittorrent avoids the problem. Why keep fighting to pay someone who doesn't want your business, when even greater interoperability (anything can play a avi/mp4/mkv file), higher bitrate, better uptime/reliability, and lower bills? They don't want anyone as customers, but especially you.

    Either switch to piracy, or come to terms with the fact that you will be playing a constant game of cat-and-mouse and escalating arms races in order to do business with someone who is playing the same game with the goal of avoiding doing business. This is Hollywood we're talking about, who practically invented the idea of accounting tricks to avoid profits. Now that everyone sees through the fraudulent accounting, the endgame is to make the lack of revenue real and if you fight them by paying, you are picking a fight with the very best, most highly experienced, brilliant losers. I don't care how bad-ass you think you are, with your tricks to make a suicidal industry have revenue against its will, but you are likely out-matched. Get realistic.

  • We have a niece in Australia who is using HideMyAss.com [hidemyass.com] with Netflix and Hulu and she says it works great. Her boyfriend is German and he tested it at home before meeting her Down Under. They have proxy servers all over the place, so this doesn't just work for content on U.S. servers.

    HMA is under US$7/month if you do a yearly contract. A lot easier/cheaper than setting up/maintaining your own.

    • I've been using HMA! for at least half a year now and I've got very few complaints. Both the Linux and the Windows client work pretty well and the connection is (assuming you choose a proper server location) good enough to stream Netflix pretty decently. I was satisfied enough to buy half a year of the service as a gift for my friend and she has also been satisfied with it, from what I hear. At times the connection doesn't seem to be good enough to comfortably stream HD video but that's somewhat compensated

  • I like Tunnelr [tunnelr.com]. Tunnelr offers two services: SSH tunneling and OpenVPN tunneling. I like tunnelr because they use the most secure operating system on the planet, the infamous OpenBSD, as their infrastructure. Their rates are reasonable and throughput is good.
  • I recently set up my own VPN network and wanted a generic solution with access to a number of countries, mainly the US, Canada and the UK. I wanted something that would work naturally with all the devices on my home network, including the Wii, Playstation, etc. The problem with a regular VPN services is that they only give you one country at a time, plus you will probably tunnel more traffic than you want. Your ISP is usually the best route for traffic that doesn't have to originate inside a specific countr

  • Two VPNs based in Sweden with strong reputations for defending users and not logging:

    https://www.anonine.com/en [anonine.com]
    https://www.vpntunnel.se/en/ [vpntunnel.se]

    Sweden has best-in-class privacy and media protections. For instance, it's illegal to pressure a journalist to reveal sources, which is the inverse of many countries, where it is illegal to conceal a source.

    As noted above, running your own, or setting one up for others is an ideal solution, although most of the groups I advise want and deserve a simple pay-and-play solut

  • I have used http://www.hideipvpn.com/ [hideipvpn.com] every so often, and they've been fine for my uses. They're about $6/month, more for extra stuff I don't need. I have watched BBC/Channel 4 video streams over it in the US and they have been ok, so I imagine that Netflix would work in Europe.

  • located in sweden. easy to use. works with linux , mac, win, android and iphone. I have not had problems with the service on win : http://mullvad.net/en/ [mullvad.net]
  • People are suggesting things above that are a bit too expensive. You are going to be doing things that do not require much overhead, so go with the smallest, cheapest VPS you can find that is hosted by a reasonable hosting provider. As long as everything you are doing is legal, I suggest the following from personal experience: NQHost costs $6.95 per month [nqhost.com].
    Virpus costs $4 per month, or $36 per year [virpus.com].

    The difference is that you can install NQHost instances yourself, but Virpus does the installation for you
  • I'm currently trying out IPVanish - they have servers everywhere (including at least 6 locations in the US), and yes, it can be used with OpenVPN, L2TP, and PPTP (on Windows, Mac, iOS and Android). Besides US servers, they also have a ton more around the world.

    It's fairly new so the utilization is really low (they were partnered with Easynews)

    Works well enough for Hulu, I'd guess Netflix as well.

  • You probably have family or friends in the US who would be willing to let you install a Mac mini or SheevaPlug or some other small, efficient computer on their home ethernet network, in exchange for a few dollars per month towards their broadband bill.

    You can use port forwarding and dynamic DNS for connectivity through their router, and OpenVPN to bridge the network. Unlike commercial hosting companies there is no chance that their residential IP address will be blacklisted or that they will be shut down fo

  • The subject says it all.

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